You Think It's Hot? Imagine Being A Penguin In Kansas City

Jun 23, 2016

Yes, it's going to be a warm weekend, but at 11 o'clock Saturday morning, you'll be treated to something special if you're at the Kansas City Zoo. Some of the zoo's penguins will be parading around the Helzberg Penguin Plaza, greeting guests.

"The birds actually seem to like it," says Director of Zoological Operations, Sean Putney."When we go in to get them, they don't quite smile, but when we walk toward the door, they follow us immediately." 

The zoo does this regularly. The penguins really kind of parade around, going in and out of their exhibit, sometimes stopping to gaze at the odd humans, Putney says.  

We often mistake all penguins for cold-weather birds.

"Especially those of us who grew up with Chilly Willy and much colder Antarctic or sub-Antarctic animals," he says, "but there are quite a few species of penguins that are used to the heat.”

Take the Humbolt penguin. The zoo has 16 of them and they're native to coastal Peru and Chile.

"They actually do fine in our temperate climate,"Putney says.  

These guys have an indoor-outdoor habitat at the zoo (although not to worry, it's not really outdoors, and it is cooled). They're separate from the cold-weather penguins at the zoo, who live in a climate-controlled 45 degree habitat. 

If they notice any heavy breathing or ... well, sweating ... Putney says handlers will take the birds inside.

Need a penguin fix, but can't make it to the zoo? Watch them all day long on the Penguin Cam.

Laura Ziegler is a community engagement reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can find her at zieglerl@umkc or on Twitter, @Laurazig